Chinese search giant Baidu might’ve just recently parted ways with its most valuable AI scientist but that isn’t slowing down its efforts. Instead, the company is expanding its presence in the United States by setting up a second research and development center in Silicon Valley.
This new research facility is about a mile from Baidu’s existing offices in Sunnyvale, California. It will specifically lay focus on further building out the company’s artificial intelligence (AI) and self-driving technologies. In addition to the existing 200 researchers, Baidu is planning to add another 150 employees at this new facility. The expansion has been justified in a statement as under:
It is becoming increasingly important in Baidu’s global strategy as a base for attracting world-class talent.
Further, Baidu’s artificial intelligence and machine learning efforts in the United States are now being shouldered by their President and former Microsoft R&D executive Ya-qin Zhang. He will now be responsible for these two research facilities and has been handed over the title — Chairman of Baidu USA. The company has established another research center in China as well, bringing the total AI researchers to a whopping 1,300.
The company’s Silicon Valley AI Lab was previously being led by Coursera chairman Andrew Ng, who quit from his position just last week. He had been mulling to depart from the research facility for quite some time, and the addition of experienced AI talent pool & leaders (ex-Microsoft executive Qi Lu) to their team cemented his decision. He is now looking to revive his AI research efforts for the betterment of our society.
This development reiterates the importance of AI and autonomous driving technologies in Baidu’s future roadmap. The company has prioritized the said technologies and is expanding its presence in the U.S to court more talented AI and ML scientists to lead its efforts. The company is too eager to bring its AI solutions to the Chinese, as well as global, market and is even offering its local researchers an incentive to move to its research center in Silicon Valley.
In addition to AI solutions for improvement in its search results and translation tools, Baidu is also known to be building its own self-driving electric vehicle. Going by the name of Chery eQ, the vehicle is Baidu’s very own all-electric test vehicle that looks similar to the company’s American counterpart Google’s test car — which has now retired.
The company is currently building its self-driving cloud-to-car computing platform in partnership with Nvidia. They’ll develop a host of solutions, including HD maps, Level 3 autonomous control, and automated parking. The research is aggressively building the said software and has already bagged a permit to test its autonomous vehicle on the streets of California. It had previously been working in partnership with BMW, but that’s over now. It is continuing its efforts in collaboration with BAIC Motors and is planning to mass-produce self-driving cars by 2020.